Scope of Work: Design, Financial Modeling, Procurement, Construction and Integration Oversight.ACC Network Broadcast Production Facility: LED, Digital Signage, Broadcast Engineering, Broadcast and Production Controls, Infrastructure Cabling, Campus Fiber System, Audio, Lighting.
Lane Stadium: LED Display Systems, Integrated Digital and Static Signage, Sound Reinforcement System.
Cassel Coliseum: LED Display Systems, Integrated Digital and Static Signage, Control Room.
PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS *In Progress
AJP is proud to be working closely with Virginia Tech on the design, procurement and integration/construction of a new broadcast production facility on the south side of Lane Stadium, scheduled for completion in Summer 2019. The launch of ACC Network (ACCN), the new 24/7 all-ACC national platform, is slated for August 22, 2019.
ACC NETWORK UPGRADES
The new broadcast production facility design features five (5) Control Rooms, a Technical Operations Center, and new Edit Suites that feed nine VT facilities along with ESPN to meet the school’s ACC Network requirements. The system was put to use early to produce football games in the spring of 2019, and made its debut appearance live on the ESPNU network in May 2019, highlighting the newly upgraded baseball facility. Production for this live event employed two of the five control rooms: Control Room 1 produced the ACC network feed to ESPN, and Control Room 2 produced the in-game LED board show for English Field at Union Park.
Phase Two involves the implementation of a state-of-the-art, four-set studio designed by AJP. One of the most advanced television broadcast studios in college sports, the broadcast studio features an impactful interview set at the entrance, plus an additional and separate main studio set. The space also includes a smaller set for interviews and podcasting, and a dedicated chroma-key (green screen) filming section. The new facility will provide complete ACC network coverage for simultaneous athletic events – a game changer for VT.
May 8, 2019
HOKIES’ ACC NETWORK PREPARATIONS HIT OVERDRIVE
Concession offerings, ticket prices and restroom locations are common spectator questions at sporting events. Virginia Tech’s Angie Littlejohn fielded a more offbeat query at the Hokies’ home baseball game Monday versus Boston College.
With ESPNU carrying the contest, the fan wondered, where was the TV truck?
“We don’t need it anymore,” answered Littlejohn, a senior associate athletic director.
No, they don’t.
Monday marked the first linear, or over-the-air, telecast produced from the school’s new broadcasting hub, located in the south end zone of Lane Stadium. Goodbye, TV production trucks. Hello, ACC Network.
Indeed, Monday was a rehearsal for the network, which launches this summer, and according to all concerned, the production was seamless.
“I don’t think it could have gone any better,” said Brian Walls, the Hokies’ assistant athletic director for broadcast and network operations. “We were anticipating having a good show because we were prepared very well, but I don’t think we necessarily knew that it was going to go as well as it did.”
“It was a sense of everything actually worked correctly,” Littlejohn said, “and you don’t get to say that very often in live TV.”
Walls and Jed Castro, the assistant AD for production and multimedia, are Tech graduates and have been HokieVision co-workers for 14 years. They’ve been neck-deep in ACC Network groundwork since 2016.
Littlejohn arrived at Tech two years ago from Furman with a unique appreciation for the ACC and the network’s vision. She “grew up in the back of TV trucks,” tagging along as her dad, Al, served 40 years as Clemson’s director of video productions. As a high school and college student, the latter at the University of Virginia, she stage-managed for networks such as ESPN, Raycom and CBS.
Even after graduating from law school at Washington & Lee, she traveled to Fox Sports’ weekly ACC football telecasts, compiling stats, while her mom, Ginger, worked as a spotter.
At Virginia Tech, Littlejohn, athletic director Whit Babcock, senior associate ADs Brad Wurthman and Tom Gabbard, and the HokieVision staff, much like their peers around the league, have prioritized the ACC Network. A partnership with ESPN, the long-anticipated 24/7 cable channel debuts Aug. 22 and has required each of the conference’s 15 schools to upgrade equipment, create production space and add personnel.
Virginia Tech is spending approximately $10 million on infrastructure and has hired five new full-time employees — senior director Eric Frey, chief engineer Sam Jones, network coordinators Ryan Stankard and Amanda Rutledge and associate director Daniel Gibbons. The Hokies are the 12th ACC school to produce a linear telecast for ESPN, a group that includes U.Va. — the Cavaliers produced a February men’s basketball game against Georgia Tech.
Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium command center includes two large control rooms, engineering space and offices, a stark contrast to the claustrophobic conditions HokieVision staffers have long encountered in the Merryman Center, their former and now less-taxed home between Lane Stadium and Cassell Coliseum.
The ACC is betting the investments make the channel profitable and help the league close the revenue gap with wealthier competitors such as the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference, each of which has a network. For example, in fiscal 2016-17 the SEC distributed, on average, $40.9 million to each of its 14 members. The average ACC distribution was $26.6 million.
ACC schools have long produced digital telecasts for online viewing, plus video-board offerings at myriad venues — the first digital effort from Virginia Tech’s new digs was a baseball game against Georgia Tech last month. But linear, or network-caliber, productions demand more camera positions and advanced control rooms, and the people to operate them.
Toward that end, Virginia Tech last year hired Jones and Frey, both of whom worked at Arkansas when the SEC Network launched in 2014, also in concert with ESPN. That experience has proven invaluable, allowing the Hokies to anticipate, rather than react to, ESPN’s requests.
“I’ve had a good opportunity to learn from a lot of ESPN personnel,” Frey said, “and I’ve taken a lot from each of those individuals, and because of that we feel pretty confident that we know how to train all of our students up.”
Unlike big-city ACC schools such as Miami, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech doesn’t have access to a deep pool of freelance camera operators, so each of the seven manned cameras for Monday’s baseball game was run by a student.
“The biggest compliment we got during the show was the ESPN personnel had no idea that it was a completely student-run camera operation,” Walls said. “They were just completely blown away by that.”
The game ran about four hours, ending at 11:04 p.m., and afterward, Tech staffers reviewed the production with ESPN’s on-site personnel, including the director, producer, assistant director and assistant producer.
I didn’t watch the game live — Tiny Teel was busy waxing me at checkers for much of the night — but a DVR replay showed no evidence that this was an in-house rather than ESPN production.
“When we knew (in February) that we had the linear opportunity with the baseball game Monday, Eric began prepping our students, prepping our staff to treat each digital show as a linear show,” Walls said. “So we’ve been regularly rolling out 10 and 11 cameras for each of our baseball games just to get us prepared for this.”
Frey credits the production quality to Tech’s willingness to provide “everything that we wanted and needed at the start … as opposed to having to play catch-up two, three or four more years down the road.”
Considerable work remains. Tech will produce digital telecasts of the May 16-18 home baseball series against Virginia, and there are wiring projects for several venues, including Cassell Coliseum.
There is also a showcase studio set to front the west side of Lane Stadium facing Beamer Way. Groundbreaking for the four-set studio is set for late summer/early fall, and the athletic department envisions all the new facilities as a recruiting lure for athletes in general and students interested in broadcasting careers — Tech offers a multimedia journalism major and a sports media and analytics concentration.
“It’s hard to believe where we were and where we are now,” Walls said, “and I couldn’t be more thankful to our administration for believing in our vision for what we saw was necessary for the ACC Network.”